Farms Finest: Keep your food choices simple and healthy
February 24, 2014
Whether you are an environmentally concerned citizen, a "foodie" or simply focused on eating healthy, we all share a common ground when it comes to food.
Quality food is getting more expensive and harder to find. Natural disasters are adding even more pressure on food supplies. And California's drought will have an impact on what we will be seeing on store shelves.
With these increasing water shortages and costs, expect even more agricultural land to be left barren. Once-productive fruit trees have already been bulldozed over, and cattle stocks are being sold off prematurely.
Such early-spring shortfalls will create a noticeable hole in our food supplies. This will be hard to replace since California is the nation's top-producing state for vegetables, lemons, limes, strawberries, peaches, vegetables and a variety of nuts.
On Jan. 17, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of this drought and called on residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent. "This drought ranks as one of the worst, if not the very worst drought on record," he said.
As consumers, we gauge the status of our food supply by how full the store shelves are and how far our grocery dollars go. It is only when these prices or availability changes do we take notice.
For the food industry, these supply gaps offers a time to quickly fill vacancies with more innovative food products. If there is less fresh food available, it will be replaced with more processed food products.
That's all the more reason we must gear up for being better informed on what is available and understand food labels. Buyers beware for what really is a healthy choice, real fruit flavors, best of the farm and orchard fresh. These phases are more often empty words stamped on a package.
Food is meant to be healthy fuel for our bodies, and getting the best "bang for the buck" should be our bottom line. The paradox is that the more poor-quality food we consume, the more we crave it. That is the billion-dollar hook of sugar, salt and fat, which are also the cheapest ingredients to mix together.
By contrast, if we eat quality food with high nutrient value we want (and need) to eat less. This roller-coaster cycle of cheap, often-supersized meals, which are nearly barren of nutrients, keeps consumers lining up both at the cash registers and doctors offices.
This is not going to change on its own or by some good-hearted intention of one of the industrial-food companies. Learning how to eat and buy healthy is the answer. As consumers, we can make some of the following changes:
• Move way from those prepared food kits and stock up on healthy foods to grab on the run.
• Get familiar with the produce section and what is in season for your area. Try one new fruit or vegetable each week.
• Find those nutrient dense and inexpensive beans and grains that are available.
• Keep your diet choices simple and with the least number of processed ingredients.
• Eat better and save money by learning to cook.
As we rid our diets of artificial flavors, we will begin to recognize "fresh" tastes. Most of us know what the taste difference is between a garden-picked tomato versus a store-bought one. Not only is this a contrast in flavors, but also it reflects the health value contained in the tomato. The real value in food lies in how much nutrition it has to offer.
Quality food is serious business to all of us consumers and to let big business keep playing with our food is really bad business.
Question those implied marketing phrases, read labels, and buy food in the purest form possible. Like it or not, we are having to make changes with quality food becoming less abundant. It is a far better option we make these choices on our own.
The majority of all food products available to us can all be traced back to the big 10. The soda gurus selling their colored corn syrups are the same ones that also have product lines of "healthy choices." Once any food is mass-produced, shipped and stored, it loses nutrient integrity.
As Julia Child said it well, "You do not have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food with fresh ingredients."
Next Sunday we will look at Chipotle's' "Farmed and Dangerous" mini series and other marketing antics.
Joni Keefe is passionate about local food and agriculture. For more information, her website is Farmsfinest.com, or follow her on Twitter. Connect at firstname.lastname@example.org.